The overlap between happiness & a great presentation

I was sitting next to a wellbeing expert recently on a plane and she said there are three simple keys to happiness: laughter, music and exercise.make-me-laugh

We hopefully do a reasonably good job at incorporating one or two of these keys into our daily lives.  Sometimes exercising to old eighties aerobics videos lets me integrate all three keys.  Did I just over-share there?

But our challenge as communicators and presenters is how to incorporate laughter into every presentation.  Laughter is definitely one of the keys to delivering an inspiring presentation.  When your audience laughs, they connect with you and your message.   Motivational speakers  know that humour and drama (usually in story form) will get you past your audience’s defences.

Some presenters think they’re simply not funny, or they worry about introducing humour to a serious topic. Some of us might have to work harder to engineer humour into our presentations, but generally it will be rewarded in spades by our audience’s engagement.

Our muse on how to do this well, even for serious topics, must be professional public speaker Hans Rosling, who presented a TED talk titled ‘The best stats you will ever see’.  Rosling presents complex, longitudinal, global stats on child mortality, but he does it with drama, urgency and humour in the persona of a sports broadcaster.  It’s magic and it works without minimising the seriousness of the issue he is dealing with.

When I mentor clients who are about to make a presentation I always challenge them with: “So, what’s your story?”  And to this I now add: “What’s your funny?”

So, what’s your funny? Where have you seen humour used well in a presentation?  I would love to hear your thoughts – please comment.

Look who is talking (too much)

Sad man waving a red flag gesturing defeatA few weeks ago at a council community engagement forum, a gentleman stood up and made a powerful point and followed it with a snappy example.  You could see a lot of heads nodding around the room.  Then he went to explain, elaborate, add, elucidate, state, repeat and reiterate his point for another five or so minutes, all without drawing a breath!

You could see the shift in the room as people started coughing, shuffling papers and tapping their feet impatiently. Luckily a break was called for coffee. The overheard comments about this speaker were most unflattering. “Loves the sound of his voice,” one person muttered. “Can never get him to shut up,” another said.  This person was not a close talker, but an over-talker.

Sometimes over-talkers start off by being persuasive, but then they undo their good work by becoming boring and repetitive.  Sometime over-talkers cover up a lack of preparation or knowledge by making one point in five different ways.  It’s conversational smoke and mirrors.

We all have been guilty of over-talking – I know I certainly have!  So here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Holding court for more than a couple of minutes without drawing breath, allowing no one else to get a word in
  • Repeating what you’ve already said, while one part of your brain is screaming ‘Stop talking now!’
  • People who were bright and sparkly when you started are now distracted and listless

Not for a moment am I suggesting we should be taciturn and speak in shotgun-staccato bursts of 30 seconds at a time.  Great conversations and deep connections are what make the personal and business world go around.  But over-talkers lose out on these benefits unless they regularly stop to take stock.  What are your thoughts on over talkers?

Please share I love hearing from you.

The pit of despair – and the perils of getting out alive

Climbing-to-success-300x300On a recent Saturday run, I was feeling despondent.  Here I was far behind the rest of my group, running alone.

As adults we hate being bad at stuff. Especially in PUBLIC.  My dark mood continued and at one point I wondered should I stop running, as I am not making much progress at all and it has been a year.   My thoughts started to spiral down and I entered the pit of despair.  This is where you feel things are hopeless and you want to give up.  No one tells you this, but the pit of despair is full of carnival mirrors that distort everything: your messages, your self-perception and even your ability to do stuff anymore.

Just then my trainer Nick ran back to me and I confessed how I was feeling.  He simply said “Just think how far you have come.  Less than a year ago you were not running and now you can do even 10 kilometres, easy, slow and steady.

Nick’s words immediately gave me a different perspective.  I also realised that there are a couple of strategies you can use to get out of the pit of despair.  You could try and climb out of the pit, this can be hard as the walls are slippery or you could ask for help.

But be careful when you ask for help as there are two kinds of people with pit expertise! There are the sympathisers, who simply climb into the pit with you. They say “poor you” and help you wallow some more.   This might feel good in the moment but it’s absolutely no use to you. There are then the empathisers, who throw you a rope and sometimes a lifeline to help you out.  This is the nice, empathetic version of “Suck it up princess!”.  Luckily, Nick threw me a rope that day.  I continue to run slow and steady every Saturday and enjoy it even though I am still right at the back of the group.

What about you, what strategies do you use to help yourself or other people climb out of the pit of despair? Please comment, I love hearing from you.

What’s the biggest barrier to becoming a great presenter?

large_wooden_robot_RT-1000x1000Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says when it comes to a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.  Anecdotal evidence supports this and suggests that people rate public speaking as one of their top fears. But why?

Presenting is a time when you can be at your most vulnerable in your professional life.

It’s that moment when you have to perform or die.  Our two biggest fears as adults are of failing or embarrassing ourselves IN PUBLIC!  And every presentation occasion presents both these opportunities on a silver platter. To add to this potent mix, the exact moment you stand up to speak is when all your other insecurities are guaranteed to come flooding to the surface.  Will they like me, I should have worn the other suit, does my bum look big in this?

Our response to this pressure is to become a low-resolution, shrink-wrapped version of ourselves. Which is why you often see normally funny, animated people turn into wooden robots when presenting.  My mentor Matt Church, in his best-selling book Amplifiers advises: “If you focus on you when you speak, you are bound to be undone.  Everything becomes an ‘I’ issue: “I am not prepared”; “I am not qualified”.  These concerns are not the result of narcissism but the natural result of speaking in front of other people. The first step is to get over yourself.”

There you have it: the biggest barrier in becoming a great presenter is you.  So get out of your way and get over yourself and start focusing on your message and method instead.